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Suspicious fires (copy)

Donald Scott Freeman Jr. was arraigned Monday on a grand jury indictment alleging arson and other crimes in connection with a string of fires that broke out Dec. 9 in Corvallis, including one at this house at 239 NW 30th St., where Freeman was living with his mother.

A Corvallis man accused of starting two house fires and using bear spray to fend off police in a December incident was arraigned on new charges Monday in Benton County Circuit Court.

A grand jury indictment returned on Jan. 29 eliminates five of the original charges against Donald Scott Freeman Jr. and replaces them with three new ones.

The 51-year-old Freeman faces a total of 16 criminal counts, nine of them felonies. The charges include three counts of first-degree arson and three counts of unlawful use of tear gas as well as criminal mischief, reckless endangerment, attempted assault on a public safety officer and other crimes.

A probable cause affidavit filed with the court gave this account of the events leading to Freeman’s arrest:

Corvallis police were called to a house at 229 NW 29th St. shortly after 2 a.m. on Dec. 9 to investigate reports of an explosion and fire that damaged the structure’s wooden steps.

A little before 4 a.m., someone began setting off large fireworks nearby. Officers located a suspect, who fled on foot and tried to douse the pursuing officers with highly concentrated pepper spray designed for use as a bear repellant.

The suspect, later identified as Freeman, was seen running into a house at 239 NW 30th St., where he was living with his mother. When an explosion rocked the house and the structure caught fire, a police sergeant led Freeman’s mother to safety. After the fire was extinguished, Freeman was found hiding in a doghouse in the backyard.

Freeman, who has been held at the Benton County Jail since his arrest, appeared before Benton County Circuit Judge Matthew Donohue by video link on Monday and was represented by defense attorney John Rich.

Deputy Benton County District Attorney Andrew Jordan is prosecuting the case for the state.

Rich has filed a notice of intent to pursue an insanity defense in the case. Freeman has a previous arson conviction on his record from 2003.

Freeman’s next scheduled court appearance is a status check set for March 18.

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Reporter Bennett Hall can be reached at 541-758-9529 or bennett.hall@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter at @bennetthallgt.

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Special Projects Editor

Special Projects Editor, Corvallis Gazette-Times and Albany Democrat-Herald